B2B sales leads going cold? Maybe ‘waking the dead’ is the answer

B2B sales leads can grow cold for a number of reasons, but all is not lost: a well-managed ‘wake the dead’ campaign can deliver surprising results

The elapsed time between a prospect expressing interest in your business and a sales development representative (SDR)’s earliest response is known as speed to lead time, and it’s key for effective B2B lead development. According to Vendasta, 78% of B2B customers were shown to purchase from the vendor that responded first. However, only 27% of leads ever get contacted [Forbes] and less than 25% of businesses call their web leads [OpenView]. That’s a lot of opportunities left on the table.

Sales development teams have a short window of time to respond before a lead goes cold, and lead quality degrades the more time that elapses from the first contact. Leads get tired of waiting around. The more time that passes, the more time prospects have to reconsider their options (as well as their opinion of your organization), and the door is left wide open for a competitor to step in.

The special case of B2B

The need for immediacy that’s commonly understood in B2C marketing and sales is sometimes not reflected in B2B where lead response time needs to be more of a priority. What’s more, response time may be even more important in the B2B arena because of a digital-first buying cycle where prospects are likely to have spent hours researching online and are contacting you, ready to have an informed conversation. Businesses need to meet the buyer where they are, most likely warmed up already and ready to talk. Google’s Digital Evolution in Digital Marketing Study found that the average B2B buyer is 57% through the purchase decision before engaging a supplier sales rep and that you, as a supplier, have only 12% total mindshare across the B2B buyer journey. Contacting those leads before they start to cool down is about maximizing that 12%, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Why sales leads get cold

No B2B sales organization intends to let their leads grow cold – we’re all very aware of the importance of following up as quickly as possible. However, there are several reasons why you might suddenly find yourself sitting on a pile of ageing leads:

  1. Resources: You have a hard-working in-house sales development team but they have too many inbound leads to qualify, meaning that some are left behind. While this may seem a good problem to have, you won’t know if there is gold in a lead until it’s explored, meaning some very big opportunities for your business could be missed. You may also be lacking sales enablement resources such as follow-up emails to offer free demos, useful e-books / white papers or relevant product information, or AI-driven response management to create a targeted knowledge-base of content based on questions and answers between customer and sales reps.
  2. ‘Cherry-picking’ leads: It’s a common problem that some sales teams have a cherry-picking approach and pick up the leads that appear the easiest to convert, quickly discarding or even ignoring leads that don’t have obvious and immediate potential. This leads to a lack of visibility of marketing tactics, low morale within teams and potential loss of earnings as leads with potential are left unworked. For more on cherry picking and how to address it within your organization, check out our blog here.
  3. Unequal lead distribution: As well as cherry picking, there may be other issues in distributing leads within sales or sales development teams. Perhaps your CRM is pushing sales lead notifications out daily when immediate alerts would work better. Alternatively, SDRs might be focusing on their own leads, ignoring web-based leads.
  4. Increased demand: When there is a sudden spike in demand, perhaps because one of your products or services is proving more popular than anticipated, or demand for an event has taken off unexpectedly, your in-house SDR team may not have the time to follow up every enquiry, and so some are left languishing.
  5. Losing momentum and giving up: Following every lead can be hard work and persisting with a multichannel follow-up via email, phone call and social media, even when the going gets tough, is not something that every SDR team wants to do or has the skills to pursue.


Resurrecting lifeless leads: ‘waking the dead’

waking the deadBut if some of your leads have gone cold, why continue to pursue them? They may have potential, but no-one is really sure. Isn’t it easier to simply leave them to die? Not necessarily. This is the time to ‘wake the dead’. No, this doesn’t require mad scientists, magic or pentagons! All you need to do is collect all your old, cold and lifeless leads and hand them over to an outsourced sales development partner to follow up. Outsourced agency teams, such as those we run at MarketOne are often specialized in reviving cold leads and have solved this issue for other clients; they know which messaging tools are most effective for example, or which sales techniques work best for which audience.

However, it’s not simply a case of calling up the prospect to check in with them and see if they are still interested in your offering – the benefits reach much further than that, into collecting and cleansing your data and collating market intelligence. Your external Sales Development partner should also be able to engage in lead qualification and account profiling by upgrading some prospects to the category of ‘ready to buy’.

This multi-step process should involve:

  • Following up on the enquiry and, if still relevant, qualifying the lead as a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL), Sales Qualified Lead (SQL), Product Qualified Lead (PQL) or Conversion Qualifed Lead (CQL) before passing to sales.
  • Gathering account intelligence by sifting through data gathered on calls, to profile or score accounts worthy of future sales efforts.
  • Ensuring that the contacts are correct and current, and identifying additional relevant decision-makers within the organization.
  • Looking to identify potential future opportunities, especially where the original enquiry is not relevant or need have changed.
  • Contacting and qualifying every leftover lead to ensure nothing is missed. When the going gets tough, the tough get going and an external SDR team is paid to work each lead and not give up. The more touches a lead has the more likely it is to convert, and a commitment to at least six touches increases the likelihood of making contact by up to 70% [Inside Sales].

Cold leads are not destined for certain death. You can revive them and warm them up by working with an outsourced Sales Development partner who has the skills and persistence to ‘wake them up’ and find out if any are valuable to your business and likely to convert.

It’s true that many leads ‘die’ if not followed up fast enough, but not all of them. In recent ‘waking the dead’ exercises for clients, MarketOne delivered lead conversion rates of 1.5% to 2.5% against target conversion rates of 3% to 5% for ‘fresh’ leads. Surely it’s worth contacting every lead? You never know what you might miss.